Chabad special ed teacher sued for child sexual abuse, banned from school premises

The teacher, who worked at Crown Heights yeshiva Darchai Menachem, has been accused of repeatedly abusing an 11-year-old boy in 2001

The Chabad-Lubavitch neighborhood in Crown Heights, Brooklyn. Credit: Lauren Hakimi/Shtetl

Mar 26, 2024 5:30 PM


A special education teacher at a Chabad school in Crown Heights has been sued for sexually abusing an 11-year-old boy. The teacher has now been banned from at least one of the schools he worked for.

A civil lawsuit filed in New York State Supreme Court earlier this month by Nissan Gershowitz accuses Zalman Friedman, a member of the Chabad community, of repeatedly forcing Gershowitz to commit sexual acts in and around 2001. 

In the complaint, Gershowitz says Friedman sexually assaulted him on a bus, at an old age home, and at a mikvah, or ritual bath. Gershowitz is seeking financial compensation for the “medical care and attention” that he has required “to alleviate himself of his pain and suffering, emotional distress, mental anguish, and embarrassment.”

Until recently, Friedman worked with students at Yeshiva Darchai Menachem as a P3 provider, a government program that allows agencies to place special education teachers in schools. Prior to that, Friedman taught seventh grade at Darchai Menachem in the 2016-17 school year. 

After school administrators learned about the lawsuit, they banned Friedman from entering the school, according to Rabbi Menachem Vail, the associate director at Darchai Menachem, which serves boys with behavioral and academic challenges within Crown Heights’s Chabad-Lubavitch community.

The teacher, Zalman Friedman, is “no longer working in our school and no longer allowed in the building,” Vail said. “We are super confident in our procedures and safety net that we have in place.”

Friedman could not be reached for comment.

Gershowitz’s lawsuit was filed under the Gender Motivated Violence Act, a law that allows victims of sexual abuse that took place in New York City to seek compensation in civil courts for injuries resulting from abuse. In 2022, the New York City Council created a “lookback window”: for two years beginning on March 1, 2023, victims can make claims under the GMVA regardless of how long ago the abuse occurred. 

Chabad differs from many other parts of the Haredi community, where members are often discouraged from reporting abuse by community members to the police. In 2017, Chabad-Lubavitch rabbis signed a proclamation saying all abuse should be reported to secular authorities.

“The reporting of reasonable suspicions of all forms of child and adult abuse and neglect directly and immediately to the civil authorities is a requirement of Jewish law,” the document said. “There is no need to seek rabbinic approval prior to reporting.” The proclamation also outlined procedures for preventing sexual abuse in Chabad-Lubavitch institutions.